Trevor Paglen has released these birds-eye photos of the NSA (National Security Agency, the “signals” intelligence organization, $10.8 billion dollar budget), the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office – in control of U.S. satellites, $10.3 billion dollar budget), and the NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency – the mapping [GIS] agency, $4.9 billion dollar budget). As Paglen notes, much of the discussion of the U.S.’ surveillance state lacks a physical, or spatial component. These nightime images, taken from a helicopter, are reminders of the enormous footprint that collecting planetary-wide data actually makes in the ground. Here’s the images, which can be freely distributed.
But some are given more days than others, and I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.
And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes."
This part over and over:
When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation.
This isn’t just an issue of precarity or justice; it’s intimately related to the Kristofs of this world bleating “Where have all the public intellectuals gone?” Yasmin is a public intellectual (there, I said it). But without the kinds of supports the rest of us currently have or will have in the future, her pieces in The Awl or In These Times or on her blog—which is how the rest of us academics make our beginnings in the public writing world—can’t give her the lift she needs to get her work up in the air where it belongs. Because she’s always got something else, here on the ground, on her mind: namely, how to pay the rent.
I had to smile at Kristof’s nod to publish or perish. Most working academics would give anything to be confronted with that dilemma. The vast majority can’t even think of publishing; they’re too busy teaching four, five, courses a semester. As adjuncts, as community college professors, at CUNY and virtually everywhere else.
I don’t ever expect Kristof to look to the material sources of this problem; that would require him to raise the sorts of questions about contemporary capitalism that journalists of his ilk are not inclined—or paid—to raise."
Seriously, any attempt to talk about public intellectuals and academia without talking about the neoliberalization of the university is just a waste of time.
Also, I love how Nick Kristof and Thomas Friedman seem to have a weekly contest about who can be the worst opinion writer for the New York Times. I can’t wait for Friedman’s eventual Islamophobic neoliberal piece later this week.
I’m sure Edwards would insist he’s no bigot, just as everybody in America insists they’re no bigot. But Edwards’ warning, if inartfully composed, offers an unintentionally elegant reminder of how heterosexism asserts and sustains itself. Not just through the bald fear and disgust we most often call homophobia (well-captured in the fear of predatory homosexuals invading the shower, as if straight bros’ locker room interactions were free of sexual surveillance, anxiety or bullying). But also through the insistence that anything other than normative heterosexuality is an issue, an event (maybe even an aggression), while straightness is unremarkable and un-remarked-upon. It’s called “straight” for a reason.
The epic time and energy devoted to performing, asserting and enforcing heterosexuality (just watch a Super Bowl ad) goes hand-in-hand with the assumption that any individual’s heterosexuality is a non-event. When projected first round NFL pick Manti Te’o told reporters about his (apparently mythical) girlfriend, Herm Edwards didn’t accuse him of dragging his heterosexual baggage into the locker room. That’s the asymmetry at hand: Sam’s sexuality is noteworthy and suspect, while Te’o’s relationship only became baggage when it was revealed as a hoax. Similarly, Proposition 8 Judge Vaughn Walker was accused of being unable, as a gay man, to rule fairly on gay marriage, whereas heterosexuality (or whiteness, or U.S. citizenship) doesn’t get called out as a conflict of interest.
Sitting in that classroom back in high school, not yet having acknowledged to myself or intimated to anyone that I was anything other than straight, I took the lesson that being gay could make people afraid to share a locker room with you. But thinking back on it, I’m mostly struck by the teacher’s comfort speaking as if everyone in the room was presumptively straight. Despite swift progress, heterosexuality remains largely omnipresent, assumed and therefore invisible. Deviation (be it claiming queerness or just actively questioning one’s sexuality) comes at a cost – like getting accused of dividing your team, or undermining your sport, by introducing your “off the field issues.” (Note that the NBA’s Jason Collins, in coming out last year, wrote that he’d held off during the season so as to “not let my personal life become a distraction.”)"
Important guide for BDS/Palestine activists. Most of it is focused on issues around Palestinian activism, but there is some good stuff in here for any activists on a college campus.
Piers Morgan manages to prove just how big of an ass he is. Telling women to pipe down and mocking transphobia.
Cis-people, this is why even when we think we are allies, we are still dangerous and capable of fucking up in incredibly damaging ways.
The one quibble I would have with this is that it still buys into the notion that science is something that is outside of politics, but it captures why debates like this are always going to be self-defeating.
Being a minority, exercising your First Amendment right to speech, and raising the suspicion of an FBI agent is enough to let them begin surveilling you.